Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mediation In A Florida Divorce: What Is It Good For?

Whether you have considered filing for divorce, or are in the middle of one now, you have heard of mediation. In a Florida divorce, sooner or later you will go to a mediation, either before you file the case; or during the case because Florida judges refer the case prior to setting a date for trial. The question, then, what is mediation; and what good will it do in your divorce?

Mediation is one of the alternatives to litigation; in other words, an alternative to a trial; and has several important advantages for you. You will use a mediator, who will facilitate communication between you and your spouse. Mediators are not judges; they cannot make you agree, they can simply help you to agree. This is very important in litigated cases, where each party (and sometimes their attorneys) become rigid in holding their positions in a case, and may not consider certain weaknesses of their case because they are so close to the issues.

In Florida family mediators are certified by the Florida Supreme Court, although anyone may mediate your case if you and your spouse agree. A Florida certified family mediator has taken the required training in mediation, including a 45-hour course, as well as satisfied other requirements. Most family law attorneys prefer a certified family mediator because usually he or she is also a family law attorney, and is familiar with family law. However, in Florida, mental health professional and certified public accountants may also become certified in family law if they comply with the requirements.

Negotiations in mediation are confidential unless the law requires the mediator to make disclosure. This means you cannot tell your judge what was discussed in mediation. However, the law requires a mediator to disclose certain things, such as child abuse. In any case, the confidentiality is important because it lets the parties discuss the issues and potential agreements fully, without fear of being held to a less favorable position in court if the mediation does not result in an marital settlement agreement.

Mediation has several advantages. The most important advantage is probably the fact that each party keeps control of what the outcome will be. No one is going to be affected by the ultimate outcome like you will be. So why put the resolution of your case in the hands of a third party---a judge--who does not know you, and has hundreds of cases like yours?

Also, while your attorneys are an invaluable source of information and advice, they don't work for free. We all know what good legal advice can cost per hour so there is no point in discussing that here. But saving on attorney's fees is also a great advantage in mediation because there is no need to continue litigating once you have reached an agreement--the more money you save in attorney's fees the more you can keep for you and your children.

In addition, studies show that parties to a divorce are more likely to comply with the terms of an agreement they participated in reaching then with the terms of a final judgment. So, once your divorce is final, you are less likely to go back into court to enforce the terms of an agreement than you are those of a final judgment.

Lastly, there is the advantage of cutting your case short. Anyone who has made their way through the court system is aware of the pressure and stress involved. In a divorce, where many times there are children involved, the last thing a family needs is the pressure and stress of the process or the lingering ill-feeling after the divorce decree is final.

(c) 2007 Vivian Rodriguez. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Vivian Rodriguez has been a practicing attorney in Florida for over 18 years, and a Florida Supreme Court certified famly mediator. Tel 305-760-4557

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